If Michael Bloomberg is going to heaven, as he recently assured The New York Times, does that mean I am going to hell? The former New York mayor and I do not agree on much, especially when it comes to his two biggest passions: gun control and "public health," both of which involve restricting people's freedom for no legitimate reason.
Bloomberg told the Times he plans to spend $50 million this year against politicians who oppose his gun-control agenda. According to the Times, the billionaire busybody's main goal is to "expand the background check system for gun buyers both at the state and national levels."
That may sound unobjectionable, until you realize that the whole point of the "background check system" is to strip people of their Second Amendment rights, often for trivial reasons. The Gun Control Act of 1968, for instance, bars gun ownership by "unlawful user(s)" of "any controlled substance."
Bloomberg, a former toker who as mayor of New York presided over a crackdown on pot smokers featuring illegal arrests for "public display" of marijuana, now wants to make sure cannabis consumers never exercise their constitutional right to armed self-defense. That one rule would disarm more than 30 million Americans, according to the federal government's survey data.
And no, it does not matter why people consume cannabis. The state of Illinois, which is implementing a medical marijuana program, initially said participating patients would not be allowed to keep their guns. Last week, in response to objections from medical marijuana and gun rights activists, Illinois reversed that position. But under federal law, which Bloomberg wants fully enforced, those patients will be committing a crime by owning firearms.
If the gun grabbing that Bloomberg supports proved controversial in Illinois, a state that historically has not been friendly to gun rights, how will it go over in places with long traditions of defending the Second Amendment? The Times said Bloomberg "seemed unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the ways in which his own persona — of a billionaire, Big Gulp-banning former mayor of New York — could undercut his efforts, especially in rural, conservative states."
Nonsense, Bloomberg said, bragging that he is treated like "a rock star" wherever he goes, with "people yelling out of cabs, 'Hey, way to go!'" Evidently it has not occurred to Bloomberg that the views of cab riders who are moved to shout congratulations at him in Manhattan may not reflect opinion in Montana.
Or heaven. "I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I'm not stopping to be interviewed," Bloomberg said, citing his support for restrictions on guns, soda and cigarettes. "I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close."
According to the Times, Bloomberg said that "with a grin," so maybe he was kidding. But probably not. Bloomberg displayed a similar self-righteous certainty when he reacted to a judge's 2013 decision blocking his 16-ounce limit on servings of sugar-sweetened drinks.
"We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other, to save the lives of ourselves, our families, our friends and all of the rest of the people that live on God's planet," he said. "And so while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we're doing something about it."
Bloomberg wanted the public to know that the decision overturning his big beverage ban "was not a setback for me." Rather, "this is a setback for the people who are dying." He added, lest there be any misunderstanding about his paternalistic motives, "In case you hadn't noticed, I watch my diet. This is not for me."
For Bloomberg, who sees protecting people from their own unhealthy habits as "government's highest duty," helping those who do not want his help is not only the best form of altruism. It is the key to heaven.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @jacobsullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.